Hollywood Hack Job

By: Nathan Allen

Before heading off to church for the day, he inspected the ceiling in his bedroom. There were several fine cracks that he hadn’t noticed before.

Chapter 4

A stabbing pain shot through Fr. Gerdtz’s right forearm as he sat at his desk preparing next week’s sermon. The pen fell from his hand and he scrambled for his arthritis pills, swallowing two with a mouthful of water. He opened and closed his palm a few times and gently rotated his wrist in a circular motion, hoping to alleviate the raw discomfort. He winced as he did this; the aching was still there, and that was his third dosage for the day. He hoped his arthritis wasn’t getting any worse. Maybe he was developing a tolerance for the medication, if that was possible, since it didn’t seem to be as effective as it once was.

He did his best to ignore the pain and push through with the sermon. He had hoped to come up with something that summarized his many thoughts and feelings, especially in relation to his recent spiritual awakening. But there were simply no words that could possibly encapsulate the whole experience. He had been at his desk for hours now, and all he had to show for it was a page filled with crossed-out words and false starts, and an overflowing wastepaper basket. He had planned on opening with Luke 18:27, one of his favorite biblical passages – That which is impossible with man is possible with God – but he was yet to progress any further beyond that.

His concentration was interrupted by an urgent rap at the door. Before he could speak, a thirty-ish redheaded woman dressed head-to-toe in designer clothes invited herself in.

“Hello Father,” she said.

He looked up from his desk. He had never seen this woman before in his life. “Yes?”

She settled into a seat opposite and offered her hand. He noticed her face was shiny with perspiration, and she appeared slightly out of breath. She smelled of expensive perfume and stale cigarettes.

“My name is Madeleine Davis,” she said. “The location scout. We spoke on the phone earlier.”

“We did?” Fr. Gerdtz scanned his memory. He had made several phone calls earlier that morning, but this woman’s name wasn’t ringing any bells.

“I appreciate you seeing me at such short notice.” Her voice was pitched at a volume several decibels higher than a regular speaking voice. Fr. Gerdtz wasn’t sure if that was how she normally spoke, or if she thought he was half-deaf. It was most likely the latter. “This is an incredibly urgent matter. As I explained to you over the phone, we require a church to shoot several scenes for an upcoming Judd Apatow film. We’ve been having trouble obtaining permission from the other churches nearby. It won’t take up any more than two or three days of your time, and we are offering very generous compensation in return.”

It took a moment for Fr. Gerdtz to catch on to what was happening here. This woman apparently failed to hear the question mark at the end of his previous sentence. When he said “We did?” she assumed he was simply confirming that they had earlier conversed on the phone.

It wasn’t until later that it all finally clicked into place. Madeleine must have been speaking with Fr. Jenkins from the United Church on James Street, whereas she was now at the St. James Church on United Way. It wasn’t the first time such a mix-up had occurred. The two churches were constantly receiving each others’ mail, and barely a week went by without at least one guest turning up to the wrong wedding or funeral.

“I have the shooting script here,” she said, digging around inside her bag. “You mentioned that you wanted to review it before making your decision.”

She produced a document and handed it to Fr. Gerdtz. He studied the title page.

“Where’s the Love?” he said, reading the film’s title.

“Yeah, like the Black Eyed Peas song.” Madeleine lit up a cigarette, oblivious to the no smoking sign directly in front of her. “Although we may have to change that due to the trouble we’re having obtaining the rights.” She inhaled a lungful of the noxious fumes, then carelessly blew out a cloud of smoke in Fr. Gerdtz’s direction. “You know your film’s in trouble when even the Black Eyed Peas refuse to license one of their songs,” she muttered to herself.

Fr. Gerdtz opened the script at random pages and ran his eyes across the text. It didn’t take long to get the gist of the plot. It centered on a lifelong bachelor, a lothario who wasn’t ready to settle down and behave like an adult yet, and how his whole world is turned upside down when he falls for a bridesmaid while best man at a wedding. Throughout the course of the film he is forced to confront his own issues regarding commitment and monogamy, as well as being hassled by an overbearing mother and stalked by a crazy ex-girlfriend.

It was easy to see why every other church in the area had refused to allow this to be filmed on their premises. Blasphemy and vulgarity filled almost every page. In one scene, the lead character has a deviant sex act performed on him by a female wedding guest inside the confessional while a clearly aroused priest listens in. Three pages later, a drunken old man stumbles naked through the church and relieves himself in the holy water. And the less said about where the bride and groom’s wedding rings end up after a raucous bachelor party, the better.